Why is a smear needed if there has never been any sexual contact

If the smear test only checks for the HPV virus, which is a virus transmittable by sexual contact, is a smear test needed for someone who has never had any sexual contact? As the smear test now only tests for HPV, it wouldn’t pick up anything else unless the HPV virus was present which if there has been no sexual contact, this would be the case.

Hi AlisonH

Maybe it’s to cover all possibilities, in that opinions about what constitutes sexual contact may differ? Some might think sexual contact means penetrative sex whereas it’s my understanding that just skin on skin ‘down there’ contact poses a risk for transmission of HPV. Also, for example, I would think sharing sex toys in the absence of actual body contact poses a risk for transmission of HPV whereas some might discount that?



I’ve spoken to a few different nurses who carry out the smear test and one nurse told me categorically no, if they are a virgin, and has had no sexual contact, this includes the use of toys or skin to skin contact, then there would be no reason why a smear test would be needed and they would not want to do a smear test on a virgin anyway as it would be horrific. I’ve had another nurse tell me that my daughter may not want to tell me she’s had sexual contact, but as my daughter has learning difficulties and has never had a close male or female friend, that situation is very very remote. The last nurse I spoke to said that she should probably have a smear test even if there is no sexual contact, and has never had sexual contact, as there are other cancers which appear in the cervix. My thoughts on this were that the smear test now only tests for HPV so if the chances of HPV are very remote, the smear test would not pick up other potential cancers anyway. Hopefully that wasn’t too long and it makes sense? I just don’t want to put my daughter through something which would be difficult for her to go through, as well as being difficult to understand the whys, if there is no absolute benefit. I can’t seem to speak to anyone to discuss this and all the information I seem to read is saying everyone woman should have one. But the guidance doesn’t seem to take into account women and girls who have not and will not ever have any type of sexual contact, whether penetrative or not. I was hoping someone would be able to talk through with me the benefits of her going through this when the risk is almost nill.

Thanks for responding anyway, sorry for ranting :slight_smile:


Hi Alison
Sorry this is such a stress for you. Have you considered ringing the Jo’s Trust Helpline for clarification on the three opinions you have received so far? It’s not great that you’ve received such different answers from professionals so far.

From what I know and I’m not a professional you are quite right that unless HPV is found your daughter’s sample would not be tested for cytology so it would not be able to pick up abnormal cells caused by non-HPV cause. This is the same for all of us, learning difficulties or not. The difference is in the sexual contact. There are some studies that suggest HPV can be passed by like French kissing. But it doesn’t sound like even that is a risk factor for your daughter?

Don’t worry about writing long replies it’s useful to have the detail so people can help x

1 Like

Thank you so much for replying. I may try and call them to discuss it she gets very upset when talking about her care and because she’s an adult the doctors tend to direct everything to her, which is what they should do, but she doesn’t then know the questions to ask if there is something she doesn’t fully understand, which is quite a bit unfortunately so when one nurse said she had to have a smear in front of her, because she hadn’t heard that before and didn’t know what it was it caused so much worry for her that I try to do all my research before discussing it now so I can almost sugarcoat how the information is relayed. I just don’t think I’d be able to accompany her to have a smear test knowing how much it will hurt her and the lack of understanding she will have about why, it’s heartbreaking.

Thanks for replying though :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

It is good on the one hand to speak to her directly but when it’s a difficult topic and if there isn’t suitable information available in a way your daughter can understand I can see why it has caused so much worry for her already
If you do speak to Jos Trust and get clarification it would be great to hear from you again :heart: